Lyme disease steals the limelight when it comes to tick diseases in Massachusetts. Did you know there is rare and more dangerous illness that is passed by the same tick responsible for Lyme infection?
Powassan Virus is a lesser-known tick-borne illness, which originates from the deer population. While much of the focus has been in Cape Cod, there have been reported infections in other areas of Massachusetts, as well. The CDC reports that there have been 31 confirmed cases of Powassan Virus across MA since 2010, second in numbers only to Minnesota, with a reported 38 cases. That does not sound like much, but when it concerns such a dangerous illness, even one case is too many!
What is the Powassan Virus?
Spread by a bite from an infected deer tick, the Powassan Virus is commonly asymptomatic. However, for those who do become ill from Powassan Virus, it can be quite serious. Symptoms can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties and seizures. As Powassan can infect the central nervous system, encephalitis and meningitis can be the resulting illness. About 50% of survivors of Powassan virus will experience permanent neurological symptoms such as recurring headaches, memory problems, and muscle wasting. The mortality rate for Powassan virus is about 10%.
- With no treatment or vaccine available, it is essential to see a doctor immediately if you suspect Powassan Virus is making you ill.
Powassan Virus in Massachusetts
Back in 2016, the Cape Cod Chronicle reported tick testing from deer ticks across Cape Cod that showed rampant carrying of the Powassan virus. While Powassan Virus in humans is much less common than Lyme, the concerns are greater for a number of reasons. First of all, the 10% mortality rate for Powassan is much higher than Lyme’s less than 1% mortality rate. Also, when it comes to Powassan virus, a tick can infect you immediately upon biting. This fact makes the end of day tick checks much less effective for lowering your risk for Powassan virus, whereas with Lyme if you remove ticks each day, you are less likely to have transmitted the bacteria.
Top doctors and scientists implore Massachusetts residents to be vigilant in their tick control measures.
The best way to reduce the likelihood of getting a tick-borne illness, like Powassan Virus or Lyme disease, is with personal tick protection when you are outdoors away from home. If you visit the beach, hike in the woods, or attend an outdoor party, use spray or spray-treated clothing: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), or other EPA-approved repellents are widely available. Further protect yourself at home with Mosquito Squad’s mosquito barrier protection spray, which also helps to reduce the number of ticks on your property. Our tick treatment spray begins working on contact and continues working for up to three weeks with a time-released, encapsulated tick control formula. What’s more, Mosquito Squad’s tick tube program will extend your protective measures through the fall and winter – for year-round tick control!